Carpentry and woodworking has been an occasional (sometimes very occasional) pastime of mine since I was a kid messing up my father’s workshop and loosing his tools. However, I’ve never had any luck with a hand plane, and I’ve been in more than a few situations where one could have been very helpful. So I decided to take up the challenge of learning how to competently use a hand plane.
It seems every discussion about using hand planes starts with a statement that the plane iron must be sharp. As a kid I learned how to sharpen pocket knifes and axes with files and oilstones, but my technique would certainly result in a curved cutting edge on a plane iron. So I decided the first step in learning to use a hand plane was to learn how to sharpen plane irons.
Sharpening System Selection
I selected a set of Norton 4 single-grit waterstones and flattening stone from thebestthings.com.
I read all the reviews of sharpening accessories here at LJ. I was pretty much decided to go with a Work Sharp 3000, but then ChicoWoodnut’s review of the Norton Multi-Oilstone got me thinking. I decided I was more interested in learning the skill of sharpening than finding a tool that did my sharpening for me. Woodworking is a hobby for me and the point is to enjoy the process. Scott’s strategy of picking a system, learning to use it, and sticking with it made a lot of sense in my situation. I looked hard at the oilstones, but decided instead to go for waterstones. The downside of waterstones is flattening them frequently, but I am hoping that this takes only a bit of time and very little skill. On the upside, the stones cut fast and the flattening refreshes the surface. I also decided to go with a set of individual grit stones, although I looked hard at a lower-cost set of 2 combination stones with flattening stone offered by PeachTree.
Veritas Mk.II Honing Guide
I am convinced that without a guide for grinding the primary bevel I would end up with a cutting edge that is neither perpendicular to the side of the plane iron nor even straight, for that matter. I considered an inexpensive honing guide, but this guide got good reviews here at LJ so I’m guessing that I’m more likely to be happy with it than a basic $12 model. I intend to learn how to hone freehand, but I am pretty confident that I will be pleased to have this.
Hand Plane Selection
Wood River low angle block plane.
I know I want to trim box joint fingers, so a low angle block plane seems to be a good place to start. I have my eye on the Veritas low angle jack plane, but I don’t feel ready for that quite yet. Call me silly, but I suspect the Buck Brother’s block plane I got years ago at the local home improvement store might not be the most satisfying-to-use hand plane available. A friend has a Wood River bench plane and likes it, and this brand is getting some good reviews. It might not be as wonderful as the Veritas alternative, but it has a similar style of construction and costs a lot less. Woodcraft made it convenient as they had both this and the Veritas honing guide available and were offering free shipping at the time.
My Woodcraft order much have fallen into a worm hole (the quantum mechanics / sci fi kind) and showed up in about 2 days, so I have the honing guide and the Wood River block plane. It just so happens that I had a small carpentry project with box joints (my first with my Porter Cable dovetail jig – but that is another story) waiting to be trimmed. I disassembled the plane, wiped off the packing oil, and went after the joints. The results were quite satisfactory, but I suspect my technique was not so good. I am very satisfied with the construction of the plane; everything seems to be carefully machined and all the mechanisms work smoothly. I’m pretty confident that I won’t have much problem making the appropriate adjustments to get good results once I know better what those adjustments are, but I’ll look into that a bit later.
Any suggestions on storing the plane? My shop is in a garage and uncovered metal rusts pretty quick. I expect to store the plane in the wood storage box it came in and keep that in a cabinet. Should I also put something on the sole and sides to keep the rust off? I’m thinking of using the product I use on my table saw top.
-- Greg D. -- the price of freedom is tolerance